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California's marine reserve efforts may shed light on Oregon's

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Monday, December 01, 2008

OREGON COAST The slow work of creating protected, no-fishing zones inched forward this fall as coastal cities and towns began sifting through 20 different marine reserve proposals. It’s an emotional, heated undertaking that the state hopes will balance environmental protection with economic and cultural essentials.

Three years ago, California was in this same contentious spot as they hammered out their own reserves. In the spirit of neighborly goodwill, Oregon Business asked the Golden State, “What advice would you give to your neighbors to the north?”

As executive director of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, the agency that oversaw the process, Ken Wiseman was in some ways the chief herder of cats — head of a group made up of impassioned, sometimes angry stakeholders. Make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard, he says. Know that you’re going to be making some tough choices. Avoid burnout by sticking to deadlines.

“If people want things to be perfect, you’ll never do it,” he says.

Kaitilin Gaffney, with the environmental group Ocean Conservancy, had similar advice: Get as many people as involved as possible, from the scuba divers to the birders to the business owners along the coast.

Not every Californian was happy with the process; an estimated 50% of Central California’s fishing grounds were affected. Two years after the reserves were enacted, Morro Bay Harbor Department director Rick Algert still sounds bitter as he offers advice to Oregon fishermen: Make sure the state is sincere in its promise to equally weigh both sides. Make sure you have someone on your side at the very top level of the process.

Oregon has two more years before the hoped-for marine reserves are finalized. California is jumping back into the fray this year to create reserves in Southern California.

Maybe in a few years they can look north for a little advice.

ABRAHAM HYATT


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